Skirmish at Frog Bayou (March 19, 1863)


Crawford County




March 19, 1863

Principal Commanders:

Captain John Whiteford (US); Captain Wright (CS)

Forces Engaged:

Unknown (US); Unknown (CS)

Estimated Casualties:

None (US); 10 killed or mortally wounded (CS)


Union victory

With the defeat of Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s army at the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862, major Confederate forces were compelled to leave the northwestern corner of the state. Federal forces occupied Fayetteville (Washington County) and used the town as a base of operations to keep any nearby Confederates disorganized. This skirmish was part of this effort.

The major unit holding Fayetteville was the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) under the command of Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison. The colonel sent regular patrols out of the city to determine Confederate intentions and, in mid-March 1863, sent out a small party under the command of Captain John Whiteford. Consisting of only nine men, the group moved south into Crawford County.

There, on March 19, they discovered a party of the enemy under the command of a Captain Wright. Estimated to number around twenty, the Confederates greatly outnumbered the Federals. Attacking regardless of the numbers, the Union troops under Whitehead completely surprised the enemy. They later reported killing or mortally wounding ten Confederates. The Federals also reported killing three horses and injuring five, as well as capturing camping equipment and arms. One of the Confederates reported mortally wounded was Captain Wright. The remaining Confederates fled in confusion, but the Union troops did not pursue. With the end of the engagement, the Federals continued their scouting expedition before returning to Fayetteville on March 22.

While only a brief and ultimately unimportant engagement, this skirmish demonstrates the lengths that Union forces went to in order to protect their tenuous foothold in northern Arkansas.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 22, Pt. 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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